Anonymous, Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534)
Handscroll, ink on paper, 25.2 x 778.2 cm

"The Avatamsaka Sutra" is an important Mahayana scripture in Chinese Buddhism. A 60-chapter version was translated by Buddhabhadra in the Eastern Chin dynasty (317-420) and an 80-chapter translation by Siksananda was done under Empress Wu (r. 684-705) in the Chou during the T'ang period. This manuscript section from the 3rd chapter of the former version mentioned above was donated to the National Palace Museum by Ms. Hsiang Li-lan.

The first and last parts of this sutra scroll are in almost perfect condition, the paper and ink appearing like new. The characters are somewhat flattened with the strokes dense. The brushwork is steady and solid with the turns squarish and angular, already revealing elements of standard script. However, the horizontal strokes are still somewhat elongated and the ends of the strokes heavy, retaining aspects of clerical script. The columns of characters are open and suggest a simple and archaic appearance. The style and paper, similar to Northern Wei manuscript sutras from the Tunhuang grotto repository, led the calligrapher-painter Tseng Hsi to write in a colophon (dated 1921) at the end of the scroll, "This is 'The Avatamsaka Sutra' calligraphed in the Northern Wei and is from the Tunhuang grotto repository".